When does drug free not mean drug free? Answer - when it's counted by the Government.
According to information I've obtained through Parliamentary questions, the Government apparently regards drug addicts as being free of dependency even though they may still be taking illicit drugs or be addicted to alcohol. A Parliamentary answer from the Department of Health notes the National Treatment Agency has two categories for counting those deemed to have successfully completed treatment drug free. The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) counts two categories:
- 'Treatment completed free of dependency (no drug use)'; and
- 'Treatment completed free of dependency (occasional use)'
- The 'Treatment completed free of dependency (occasional use)' category means that:
"the client is not misusing heroin or crack, but there may be occasional use of other illicit drugs, for example, cannabis which is judged by the clinician neither to be problematic nor to require treatment".
As regards alcohol, the Department of Health notes that:
"...the NTA would expect that clinicians continue to address alcohol dependence as appropriate if, and when, a client is no longer drug dependent nor monitored through NDTMS."
I think it's astonishing that someone can complete drug treatment apparently free of dependency even though they may be an alcoholic or still taking cannabis or cocaine, provided it's not crack cocaine. Sadly, it underlines just how far adrift the Government has become in getting to grips with the problems of addiction.
It's a failure for society, to which drugs do so much damage and a failure to the individuals, who are clearly not getting the help they need to beat their drug problems. We can't carry on like this and we need a change of approach with much greater emphasis on abstinence based rehab to get more people drug free - and mean it.